By Meghna Girish, a student of MA program in Art Therapy, 2016-2017 Cohort.
Most of the pioneers of Art Therapy have a Jewish lineage and interestingly many of the concepts have their roots and connotations tracing to the Torah. For me it’s a thrilling experience to have gotten an opportunity to study this field being in the Land. I love the courses and the academic exposure I’m getting from my program.
The program has both an experiential and academic aspect to it. Before choosing this program I had only a surface view of Art therapy. Now that a semester has passed I’m glad I made the choice to study at the University; now I realize the potential and scope of this unique modality to help people sort out their problems.
So what is Art Therapy? It is a profession where visual arts, the process of making an artwork (be it a painting, drawing or a sculpture) and experiencing different materials accompanied by a trained therapist, is used to help people with their mental issues. The artwork, the materials used and the process has therapeutic value.
It does seem intriguing on how it offers healing to people who are going through difficulties in life, or mental breakdown / illnesses. The essence or crux of art therapy is how from childhood communication happens not just through words but communication happens on a symbolic level too. This is the base upon which art therapy is built. For example, the use of a specific material or the need to have a ‘ bigger ‘ sized paper all reflects and communicates the emotion or feeling one is going through at the moment, or it can even reflect one’s personality or attitude towards life.
In the program we discuss a lot of case studies, with different populations; so one gets exposed to people of different age groups and a variety of problems they encounter and how the visual arts can be used to help each one. In every course we get to experience one or two materials where we understand ‘experientially’ how would it feel like, would it be frustrating for certain population but relaxing for others and so on. In addition to the theoretical classes we receive we are required to do field training every week, where we meet a client on a one to one basis, with a supervisor to guide us.
This is a striking feature of the program because we get to understand how the theory can be used in practice. The second year is designed in order for us students to get a year long intense field training experience where we work as art therapists in different centers. Though the field is relatively young, more and more people are turning to the creative arts as a means to extend help to people in need.